California megachurch pastor Greg Laurie, who is taking his congregation through a series of messages called, "Revelation: The Next Dimension," spoke about the mark of the beast, showing the world is already moving towards the fulfillment of the prophecy.
"We have never been closer to the end of the world than right now," said Laurie, pastor of Harvest Church in Riverside, in his message on Sunday.
It is, however, important to know that the Bible also talks about a new beginning when there will be "no perversion, no terrorism, no war, no starvation… no problem of any kind." As Isaiah 11:9 says, the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth. But "it is going to get worse before it gets better," the pastor warned.
Revelation 13 talks about spiritually dark times, the tribulation period, he went on to say. "Satan's son" will emerge on the scene… "the man of perdition, the man of sin, the beast… best known as the antichrist… the most evil man who's ever lived… history's vilest embodiment of sin and rebellion."
Referring to his previous message on the antichrist, Laurie reminded the audience that the antichrist's agenda will be to deify Satan. The antichrist will come to take the place of Jesus, and to kill all Christians. And the antichrist will have with him his "devilish worship leader, a religious guru," the false prophet, referred to as the "second beast" in Revelations.
Laurie then quoted Revelation 13:15-18: "The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666."
If you google the number 666, you'll receive 543 million results, the pastor said. "And you probably will find 543 million ideas about what it actually means. I don't think anyone can answer this with complete certainly, but this much we do know… The antichrist is going to introduce a cashless society… The endgame of this is to cause people to engage in devil worship."
This scenario is unfolding before us, Laurie said. The technology to make that happen is already here. He quoted Mark Hitchcock, a writer on the topic of prophecy, as saying, "The fact that the words of Revelation 13 were penned in the age of wood, stones, swords and spirit, makes this prophecy one of the powerful proofs of the inspired nature and reliability of God's word that one could have ever imagined. Who could have predicted a one-world economic system that controls all commerce but God?"
God knows the future just as well as we know our past, Laurie said. While we sometimes forget even our past, God knows the future with complete precision. Only God can tell what is going to happen, as Isaiah 46:9, 10 says.
About the changing global economy, the pastor quoted a financial expert as telling Fox News, "The real reform is some kind of a banking union where everyone signs on board, that there's going to be some kind of a banking overlord, a banking union that everyone's gonna have to bow down to." Can this actually happen? Actually, it can, Laurie said. "And the leader of it will be the antichrist, and he will have his mark."
Laurie added, "The antichrist's economic policy will be very simple. Take my mark and worship me, or starve to death… No mark, no merchandize… No seal, no sale."
The technology to do this is already here, the pastor said. A June 1, 2012 headline from New York Daily News read, "'Human barcode' could make society more organized." The article said, "Microchip implants have become standard practice for our pets, but have been a tougher sell when it comes to the idea of putting them in people."
Since 2006, new U.S. passports include radio frequency identification tags, known as RFID, that store all of the information in the passport as well as a digital picture of the owner. In 2002, an implantable id chip, called VeriChip, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The chip can be implanted in a person's arm, and when scanned can pull up a 16-digit id number containing information about the user. However, it was discontinued in 2010 amid concerns about privacy and safety.
"Am I saying that this technology will be the mark of the beast? No, I'm not," Laurie cautioned. "I'm just saying the ability to technically pull this off exists."
We don't know when the tribulation period will begin, five or 20 years from now, Laurie said. But with the technology today, we know all this is "totally plausible." But let's not overreact, Laurie advised. Not every stamp put on someone's hand by some authority is the mark of the beast. Or, if an office building's number is 666, that's not the mark of the beast.
While we do not know exactly when the mark of the beast will appear, we know this though that a great delusion will come upon the world and many will believe the lie leading to their destruction, as 2 Thessalonians 2:9 warns. Destruction will happen "because they refused to believe the truth that would save them." At the time of the tribulation, they will choose to believe in a lie that the antichrist is "God," Laurie said.
God has given us a free will, the pastor emphasized. He's not going to force us to believe something we do not want to believe. And if we continue to harden our hearts, there will come a day when God will strengthen our own resolve not to believe, he warned. But those who respond to the Holy Spirit are also strengthened in their resolve to believe, he added.
The false prophet will appear to be harmless – like a baby rattlesnake – but will be as harmful as the antichrist, Laurie said. He will mislead many people.
We're already moving towards a global economy and a global religion, the pastor said. The watchword for the day is tolerance, he painted out. We have people talking about women's reproductive rights, which means women have the right to murder their own babies; death with dignity, which means euthanasia of the elderly; and religious tolerance, which means you tolerate every religion except the one that says Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father.
However, Revelation 14:1 talks about another kind of mark, which we, who are believers, want in our lives: "Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father's name written on their foreheads."
Who are these people? These are Messianic believers who have found Jesus as the messiah set up by God to proclaim the Gospel during the tribulation period, Laurie suggested. Not one of them was lost. "God does not lose us."
Laurie said it is important for us to learn from the characteristics of the believers that Revelation 14 refers to. They had the mark of the Father, and not the antichrist. You have a mark on you, and God can see it, he told the congregants. Even today it matters what mark we carry; God can see the mark.
They sang a new song. Songs are about celebration, Laurie explained. All believers should sing a "new song," what God has done for them today. They lived pure lives – no premarital or extra-marital sex, and only in the context of married man and woman, he added. They were also sincere in their faith. They had no deceit or hypocrisy. And they "followed" the Lamb wherever He went. They were not like Twitter followers, Laurie said.
"Are you ready to meet the Lord?" Laurie asked the audience as he closed the message.